JASDF Squadron Histories & Markings
In 2014, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces commemorated the 60th anniversary of their foundation.
As tradition dictates, JASDF front-line units adorned one of their aircraft with a specially
designed colour scheme. This 201st TFS F-15J sported a suitably ornate redesign of
the unit’s bear’s head tail marking. (Photo source: JASDF Chitose AB)
Like air arms the world over, the JASDF boasts units that can trace their histories back over decades; some of the service’s F-4EJ Phantom squadrons have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the start of their operations.
Each front-line fighter and jet trainer unit comes under the command of an Air Wing. Reflecting the start of a major reshuffle of combat aircraft units, the augmentation and re-formation of the single-squadron 83rd Fighter Wing as the 9th Fighter Wing on January 31, 2016, marked the first establishment of a two-squadron air wing in more than 50 years.
Air Wing Formation Dates/Current Base Locations
(Training) Oct. 1, 1956
|2nd||Oct. 1, 1956 (Hamamatsu)||Chitose|
|3rd||Dec. 1, 1957 (Matsushima)||Misawa|
(Training) Feb. 16, 1958
|5th||Dec. 1, 1959 (Matsushima)||Nyutabaru|
|6th||July 15, 1961 (Komatsu)||Komatsu|
|7th||July 15, 1961 (Matsushima)||Hyakuri|
Dec. 28, 1964
|9th||Jan. 31, 2016||Naha|
Oct. 16, 1973
Commencing with the principal fighter units, both past and present, this section will be built up to provide extensive illustrated JASDF unit histories and markings coverage. Covering a total of 29 squadrons (Nos. 1–10, 101–105, 201–207,
301–306 and 501), examples of the initial format are provided below.
A search through Japanese-language sources has revealed a fair amount of conflicting information on the base changes and dates that largely form this initial content. More details will be added as they are found.
A trio of 203rd Sqn F-104J Starfighters photographed over typically rugged Hokkaido terrain during a flight from their base at Chitose. The 203rd completed its conversion onto the
F-15J Eagle in March 1984. (Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)
A 306th Sqn F-4EJ Phantom takes off from its Komatsu home base in April 1986, during the joint U.S.-Japan Exercise Cope North ’86-3.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. James Ferguson via Wikimedia Commons)
|1st Sqn||Formed|| Jan. 10, 1956 (F-86F, Air Wing, Hamamatsu
[some sources give Tsuiki])
|Disbanded|| Mar. 31, 1979 (F-86F, 1st Air Wing, Hamamatsu)
As its designation suggests the first JASDF F-86F unit, the 1st Sqn originally worked up on the type under the command of the simply designated (unnumbered) Air Wing that had been formed at Hamamatsu AB on December 1, 1955. Following the formation of the 2nd Sqn in August 1956, the Air Wing was redesignated the 1st Air Wing on October 1 that year and assumed responsibility for conducting jet fighter pilot training courses.
A fine study of a 1st Sqn F-86F on the Hamamatsu flight line in December 1975. The aircraft sports a broad high-visibility band on its fuselage and a red maintenance team identification stripe wrapped around the front of its tailfin. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
1st Sqn Tail Markings
Black and yellow-chequered horizontal stripe. (The design was also sometimes seen in the shape of a solid “4” on aircraft on detachment with the 4th Air Wing at Matsushima.)
In the 70s, a stripe the thickness of the upper rudder hinge was wrapped around the front of the fin, above the chequered stripe. The stripe’s colour variations denoted a specific 1st Air Wing maintenance team.
|2nd Sqn||Formed||Aug. 25, 1956 (F-86F, Air Wing, Hamamatsu)|
|Disbanded|| Nov. 20, 1965 (F-86F, 1st Air Wing, Hamamatsu)
Formed under the Air Wing seven months after the 1st Sqn, the 2nd Sqn also fulfilled a training role (under the 1st Air Wing from October 1, 1956) by conducting the basic fighter course and was to remain at Hamamatsu for its entire existence. Disbanded after only nine years of operations, this unit’s training duties were ultimately combined with those already undertaken by the 1st Sqn.
(See 11th Sqn for the 1st Air Wing/2nd Sqn’s involvement with what was to become the Blue Impulse aerobatic display team.)
2nd Sqn Markings
The 1st Sqn’s black and yellow-chequered horizontal stripe on the tail plus a large, black-outlined white shield. The shield contained a black number “2,” two arrows and, above them, the unit’s motto 不撓不屈 (futo-fukutsu, meaning unyielding or indefatigable). As mentioned in the 1st Sqn account above, in the 1970s, a coloured tail stripe served to indicate a specific 1st Air Wing maintenance team.
In the JASDF, 2nd Sqn F-86Fs were unique in having a black or possibly dark green anti-glare panel painted forward of the cockpit canopy. Its apex behind the cockpit, a blue and red chevron was painted on the fuselage of some aircraft.
|3rd Sqn||Formed||Oct. 1, 1956 (F-86F, 2nd Air Wing, Hamamatsu)|
|Current Base|| Misawa (3rd Air Wing, F-2A/B)
The 3rd was formed as the first actual fighter (as opposed to training) unit on the same day as the 2nd Air Wing at Hamamatsu. A progressive relocation to Chitose was completed on September 2, 1957, The 3rd received orders to assume responsibility for the interception of incursions into Japanese airspace on February 17, 1958, the 4th Air Wing’s units sharing quick reaction alert (QRA) duties. The first scramble was conducted on May 13 that year.
The 3rd Sqn’s somewhat nomadic existence continued with a move to Matsushima (4th Air Wing) on March 5, 1963, to make way for the start of F-104J Starfighter operations from Chitose. This was followed by the completion of a temporary move to Matsushima on March 5, 1963. On February 1, 1964, passed on to the 81st Air Group, which subsequently relocated to Hachinohe, the 3rd ended up at its current home of Misawa in December 1, 1971.
A lineup of 3rd Sqn F-86Fs at Misawa in October 1976; all sport the unit’s distinctive black-edged, red intake lips. Assigned to the commanding officer, the nearest aircraft features the shark mouth drop tanks first introduced in the previous year. Note that the tanks also carry the words 3rd Squadron and a blue and white arrow. This aircraft was withdrawn from JASDF use in June 1979 and returned to the United States, where in April 1986 it became one of around 50 ex-JASDF Sabres converted to QF-86F target drone standard for the U.S. Navy. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
Today the longest-serving JASDF squadron, the 3rd Sqn began re-equipping on the F-1 on September 26, 1977, remained at Misawa when transferred to the 3rd Air Wing on March 1, 1978. A dual ceremony to mark the official end of its long association with the F-86F and the unit becoming fully operational on the F-1 was held on March 31, 1978.
The 3rd Sqn received its first F-2 on September 26, 2000, 23 years to the day after its first F-1, and completed its type conversion on March 27, 2001. To make way for the arrival of the F-35A Lightning II, there are plans for the 3rd Sqn to relocate south to Hyakuri AB in fiscal 2020.
3rd Sqn Markings
(F-86F) Upon forming, 3rd Sqn F-86Fs bore two thin horizontal stripes (yellow, edged in red) on their tailfins. For a time, the squadron emblem appeared centrally in between the stripes. The unit’s aircraft had two broader stripes (red, edged in black) from the time of their arrival at Misawa.
In 1975, the 3rd Sqn became the first JASDF unit to adorn one of its aircraft with a shark mouth design, albeit on the drop tanks of the then commanding officer’s mount. Towards the end of its F-86F era, the unit had also started to paint the air intake lips of its aircraft red with a black edging. Variations of these traditional markings were also sported by F-1s flown at inter-squadron tactical air combat (TAC) competition meets.
The 3rd Sqn’s period of reequipment on the Mitsubishi F-1 lasted from September 1977 to March 1978. The aircraft on display at the JASDF Air Park at Hamamatsu bears the unit’s distinctive
samurai helmet tail emblem. (Photo: Arjun Sarup)
The 3rd Sqn adopted its current samurai helmet unit marking in 1983. While very colourful in the F-1 days, the marking has been toned down and reduced in size on the unit’s F-2s.
3rd Sqn Special Marking (2013)
A 3rd Sqn Mitsubishi F-2A is prepared for departure from Iruma in November 2013. This aircraft sports the markings specially applied to the trio of 3rd Sqn aircraft that participated in the 2013 TAC Meet. Positioned below the wording Samurai Spirits, the grey and white tail marking combined a stylized 3,
a contrail and the silhouette of an aircraft. Note the small samurai helmet squadron marking to the
left of the wording beneath the serial in the close-up photo below. The aircraft’s port-side ventral
fin carried the names of the paint shop staff.
|4th Sqn||Formed||Feb. 1, 1957 (F-86F, 2nd Air Wing, Hamamatsu)|
|Disbanded|| June 30, 1975 (F-86F, 6th Air Wing, Komatsu)
Formed under the 2nd Air Wing, the 4th Sqn was on the move six months later, relocating to join the 3rd Sqn at Chitose between August 24 and September 2, 1957.
The Provisional Komatsu Detachment formed on February 1, 1961, and the 4th’s transfer to what was to prove to be its last base seems to have taken place between May 7 and May 16. The 4th officially came under the command of the 6th Air Wing, which took over from the provisional unit there on July 15, 1961. A fighter/interceptor unit throughout its existence, the 4th was temporarily based at Tsuiki between February 17 and October 29, 1973.
Despite its deep involvement in flying the first jet fighter of a nascent air arm, at a time when fatal accidents were not uncommon, the 4th Sqn achieved the rare feat of 18 years of operations without a major accident. After disbanding, the unit went on to form the nucleus of the 303rd Sqn on the then newly arrived F-4EJ Phantoms.
4th Sqn Tail Marking
Yellow and blue tail chevrons in the shape of a “4”
|5th Sqn||Formed||Feb. 1, 1957 (F-86F, 1st Air Wing, Hamamatsu)|
|Disbanded|| July 1, 1971 (F-86F, 4th Air Wing, Matsushima)
Formed as a training unit on the same day and at the same location as the 4th Sqn, the 1st Air Wing-assigned 5th also soon received partial base transfer orders. The unit initially provided a detachment to Matsushima from August 1957 but took on the full fighter training squadron role following its incorporation into the 4th Air Wing (formed February 16, 1978) when fully relocated there on November 1, 1958.
The 4th Air Wing’s role changed from training to a front-line fighter unit on July 1, 1960, and the 5th assumed readiness operations from March 1, 1962.
Former 5th Sqn aircraft enjoyed a new lease of life under the 4th Air Wing as the Matsushima Hakentai (Detachment) conversion unit, which was active from July 1, 1971, to August 23, 1973.
5th Sqn Tail Markings
Initially, 5th Sqn aircraft sported a small, solid stylized “4” (denoting the 4th Air Wing) in red on the leading edge of the tail fin with four stripes (red, edged in white) extending across the width of the tail. A small black three-leaf clover appeared at a rakish angle above the stripes on the rudder.
Following the formation of the 7th Sqn at Matsushima in February 1960, a common marking was adopted by enlarging the solid stylized “4” in red for the 5th and in light blue for the 7th Sqn.
5th Sqn aircraft assigned to the Matsushima Detachment, which was active in the early 70s, carried a black Pegasus on a red-outlined yellow disc (the 5th Sqn’s unit badge) on their drop tanks.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)
|6th Sqn||Formed||Aug. 1, 1959 (F-86F, 2nd Air Wing, Chitose)|
|Current Base|| Tsuiki (8th Air Wing, F-2A/B, T-4)
In a move that must have posed some logistical problems, the 6th Sqn transferred from the 2nd Air Wing in Hokkaido to undertake training from Nyutabaru in Kyushu, at the opposite end of the country. The move was completed by November 1, 1959, a mere three months after the 6th Sqn’s formation.
On April 1, 1960, the unit officially came under the command of the 5th Air Wing, which had worked up after forming at Matsushima on December 1 the previous year prior. The 5th Air Wing officially joined the 6th Sqn at Nyutabaru on July 4, 1960. The 3rd then returned to Matsushima from Nyutabaru on October 1, 1960, only to head back to Nyutabaru, still attached to the 5th Air Wing, on July 15, 1961.
Nyutabaru became the home base of newly forming F-104J Starfighter units from 1962. So it was that, 50 years ago, on October 26, 1964, the 6th Sqn was initially relocated to the provisional detachment at Tsuiki in northern Kyushu, where it joined the 10th Sqn, also from the 5th Air Wing, and has remained ever since. The Provisional Tsuiki Detachment became the 8th Air Wing on December 28, 1964.
Standing out against a hangar at Tsuiki, this 6th Sqn F-86F was photographed in August 1976. The open access panel reveals the ammunition magazine, from which each of the three 12.7mm Browning M3 machine guns on this side were fed with 300 rounds. In the foreground, 六飛 (rokuhi, short for 6th Sqn) has been painted in red on a yellow bucket used for collecting foreign objects found on the apron.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)
Having commenced re-equipment on March 11, 1980, the 6th completed its transition from the F-86F to become the third F-1 unit on February 28, 1981; the last two F-86Fs had already left the previous November. (Although the accompanying music will not be to everybody’s taste, a short video of a 6th Sqn F-1 training mission can be viewed via Youtube [link].
The 6th began the process of re-equipping with the F-2A/B on March 8, 2004, and ceased operations on the T-2 and F-1 on March 2 and 9, 2006, respectively. Having officially operated the F-2A/B from Tsuiki since March 18, 2006, the unit has been involved in the interception of flight incursions into Japanese airspace since March 1, 2007.
At a wet Nyutabaru on Sept. 11, 1986, a 6th Sqn T-2’s canopies receive some attention in between dissimilar air combat training (DACT) missions during Exercise Cope North 86-4.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/James R. Ferguson via Wikimedia Commons)
The 6th Sqn’s F-2s lined up on the ramp at Andersen AB, Guam, during the Cope North exercise in January 2009. This joint U.S.-Japan exercise was first held in 1978.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nichelle Griffiiths via Wikimedia Commons)
6th Sqn Tail Markings
In the F-86F era, this unit first adopted a red stripe with a yellow “6”, before removing the “6” in favour of a design comprising two yellow triangular shapes, (as that worn, with a blue stripe, by 10th Sqn aircraft). There were times when this marking was temporarily changed.
Since August 1980, the 6th Sqn tail marking has depicted crossed swords over a bow and arrow, relating to an event in early Japanese history, on a yellow disc.
6th Sqn Special Marking (2014)
Tsuiki AB traditionally holds its annual air show late in the year. One of the main attractions at the November 2014 event was an F-2B with its tail painted to commemorate not only the 60th anniversary of the JASDF but also the 50th anniversary of the establishment, on December 28, 1964, of the resident 8th Air Wing.
Unlike JASDF Phantoms and Eagles, the use of composite materials on the F-2 essentially restricts the area that can be painted to the vertical tail.
The photo above shows the design elements marking the JASDF anniversary. Superimposed on a flesh-coloured, upward-tilted unit marking are a yellow 60 (“wearing” a red-peaked unit baseball cap) next to 周年 (anniversary) in red and above 航空自衛隊 (Koku Jieitai, ASDF) in blue edged in white. To the right, a yellow chrysanthemum appears above an unfurled red banner bearing the white-edged black kanji characters見摘必殺 (literally meaning “enemy in sight, sure ‘kill’”). 第6戦術戦闘飛行隊 (6th Tactical Fighter Squadron) appears in red along the yellow fin-tip stripe.
Apart from the 50, the only difference on the starboard side, which bore the flower and banner to the left, was the 第8航空団 (8th Air Wing) above the serial number instead of Koku Jieitai. For a military unit somewhat incongruously known as the Flower Air Wing, the 8th traditionally places flowers, predominantly chrysanthemums, on display at special events.
Note that the names of the design and paint shop teams, which only appeared on the ventral strake on the port side (above), were punctuated with Japanese-style commas (、) rather than the English commas used below and thus lacked the English spacing.
K,Nishimura J,Kumamoto Y,Eguchi
K,Kobayashi T,Uchino T,Kishimoto
The source of some of the supplementary information included here, the February 2014 issue of JWings magazine features a small selection of detailed photos of this aircraft and also of the 304th Sqn F-15J that was also specially painted for the occasion.
|7th Sqn||Formed||Feb. 1, 1960 (F-86F, 5th Air Wing, Matsushima)|
|Disbanded|| June 30, 1977 (F-86F, 4th Air Wing, Matsushima)
After forming under the 5th Air Wing, the 7th Sqn’s service history was comparatively straightforward. Although a move to Nyutabaru with the 6th Sqn had been planned, the unit remained at Matsushima and was transferred to the 4th Air Wing’s command on July 1, 1960. When the 4th Air Wing assumed flight training responsibilities under Flying Training Command, with effect from August 23, 1973, the 7th’s role changed from fighter/interceptor to that of a conversion training squadron.
Basking in the spring sunshine on the Matsushima ramp in April 1975 is a lineup of 7th Sqn F-86Fs. By then, the unit had adopted the idea of painting the last three of an aircraft’s serial number in red on its assigned 120 U.S. gallon drop tanks. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
7th Sqn Tail Marking
Denoting the 4th Air Wing, the solid stylized “4” shared with the 5th Sqn, in light blue instead of red.
|8th Sqn||Formed||Oct. 29, 1960 (F-86F, 4th Air Wing, Matsushima)|
|Current Base|| Tsuiki (8th Air Wing, F-2A/B, T-4)
Along with the 3rd and 6th squadrons, the 8th is one of the three current operational JASDF units that can trace their histories back to the F-86F era.
The second F-86F unit to form in 1960, the 8th Sqn initially came under the command of the Matsushima-based 4th Air Wing. The following year saw the start of a peripatetic existence, a succession of base changes (listed below) that culminated in 1978 with the 3rd Air Wing’s move from Komaki to Misawa. It was here that the 8th converted to the F-1 in 1980, ending F-86F operations on February 29 of that year.
|8th Sqn Post-Formation Base Changes|
|Apr. 25, 1961||–||(Joined what was then the
Provisional Komatsu Detachment*)
|July 15, 1961||6th Air Wing||Komatsu|
|Nov. 25, 1964||–||Iwakuni|
|Dec, 1, 1964||82nd Air Group**||Iwakuni|
|Dec. 1, 1967||3rd Air Wing||Komaki|
|Apr. 1, 1978||3rd Air Wing||Misawa|
|July 29, 2016||8th Air Wing||Tsuiki|
(*) The forerunner of the 6th Air Wing, the Provisional Komatsu Detachment had formed on February 1, 1961.
(**) Commenced on November 8, 1967, the move from Iwakuni to Komaki marked the demise of the 82nd Air Group.
A tactical fighter squadron since its inception, the 8th began re-equipping with the Mitsubishi F-1 (termed a “support fighter” in JASDF parlance) and T-2 on June 30, 1979. The unit was declared at full strength on February 29, 1980, marking the official end of its F-86F operations.
Participating in annual TAC Meets from the competition held in June that same year, the 8th Sqn’s F-1s were regularly involved in both SDF and U.S.-Japan joint training exercises.
By the mid-1990s, the F-1s being flown by the three support fighter units were beginning to show ongoing signs of age. Combined with delays in the development and production of the next-generation Mitsubishi F-2, the decision was made to replace the 8th’s aircraft with the F-4EJKai as a stopgap measure. After the Komatsu-based 306th Sqn had traded in its F-4EJKai and completed conversion on to the F-15J, on March 17–18, 1997, the F-4EJs and their experienced flight and maintenance crews were transferred to Misawa, where they made up the re-formed 8th Sqn at Misawa on March 30.
(Above) A pair of 8th Sqn F-4EJKai take off during the Misawa airshow in September 2002.
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class John Collins via Wikimedia Commons)
(Below) In stark contrast, this colourful F-4EJKai was the 8th Sqn representative at the
traditional Culture Day airshow at Iruma in November 2002.
The ground attack-specialist 8th Sqn won the fighter interception trophy at the 2003 TAC Meet and successfully represented the JASDF in the live bomb-drop category during the joint U.S.-Japan Cope North exercises conducted from Andersen AB on Guam in 2005 and 2006.
Having commenced conversion to the F-2 with the arrival of the first aircraft in April 2008, the 8th’s “stopgap” period as a Phantom squadron lasted 12 years. The final training flight was undertaken on March 6, 2009, and F-4EJKai operations were wound up on March 25. The 8th’s F-2 era started in earnest the following day.
As part of extensive reorganizational changes, the 8th Sqn bade farewell to Misawa on July 12, 2016, and officially became part of the now all F-2-equipped 8th Air Wing at Tsuiki on July 29, 2016.
8th Sqn Tail Markings
In its F-86F era, the 8th’s frequent base relocations are reflected in the changes to its squadron marking.
After forming at Hamamatsu, the unit adopted the tail chevrons in the shape of a “4”, as carried by its then 4th Sqn neighbours. Coloured blue and red, these were retained after the move to Komatsu.
During its brief time at what is today the JMSDF base at Iwakuni, the tail marking comprised two light blue stripes over which were placed two red rings in the form of an “8”.
At Komaki, the unit’s distinctive red tail emblem depicted a shachihoko. This dolphinlike mythical creature serves as a gargoyle on the roof corners of nearby Nagoya Castle and also adorns the tails of some of the C-130Hs assigned to a current Komaki-based unit, the 401st Sqn.
The year after the move to Misawa, the 8th’s aircraft were sporting a red design that incorporated the shape of the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture above a stylized “3”. This marking was carried over to the unit’s F-1s, which on occasion also bore the emblem in yellow. Today, this marking is retained (in blue) on T-4s assigned to the Misawa-based Northern Command Support Flight.
Derived from the 8th Sqn’s “Panther” radio call-sign, the black panther tail marking adopted for the unit’s F-1 aircraft was retained during the F-4EJKai era and still appears on its F-2s.
The 8th Sqn re-equipped on the F-4EJ in March 1997 and commenced dedicated F-2 operations on March 26, 2009. The panther tail marking, seen here on an F-2 at Komaki in February 2014,
has been applied to both types.
|9th Sqn||Formed||Feb. 1, 1961 (F-86F, 4th Air Wing, Matsushima)|
|Disbanded|| Dec. 20, 1965 (F-86F, 7th Air Wing, Iruma)
Five months after its formation in the fighter/interceptor role, on July 15, 1961, the 9th Sqn passed from the 4th Air Wing to the newly formed 7th Air Wing’s control, which involved no change of base from Matsushima. On May 15, 1962, the 9th made the move with the 7th Air Wing to Iruma. It was there that the unit was disbanded, having been active for just short of five years, on December 20, 1965, the date on which the 7th Air Wing was relocated to Hyakuri to oversee F-104J operations.
9th Sqn Tail Marking
A black-edged red or blue lightning flash
|10th Sqn||Formed||Jan. 18, 1962 (F-86F, 5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)|
|Disbanded|| Apr. 1, 1977 (F-86F, 8th Air Wing, Tsuiki)
Initially operational under 5th Air Wing control at Nyutabaru, on February 1, 1964, the 10th Sqn accompanied the 6th Sqn on a move to Tsuiki, where the units came under the direct control of the Western Air Defense Force headquarters. At a ceremony held at Tsuiki on December 28 that year, the 10th officially came under the command of the 8th Air Wing, which had been formed as the Provisional Tsuiki Air Group two months before, on October 26.
A scene capturing some of the activity on the 10th Sqn ramp at Tsuiki in August 1976. Note the open gun access panel on the nearest aircraft. For ease of identification, guns were marked with an aircraft’s serial number and an installation location code, in this case RU (right upper), RC (right centre)
and RL (right lower). (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
From 1972, the 8th Air Wing at Tsuiki was making preparations for the arrival of its first F-4EJs, but the 10th Sqn was to soldier on to disbandment on April 1, 1977.
10th Sqn Tail Marking
Initially, the 10th Sqn marking comprised a wide, blue horizontal stripe on the tail with a yellow triangular fin and solid circle design.
After the move to Tsuiki, two yellow triangles were added to the blue stripe in the manner of a stylized “8”, symbolizing the 8th Air Wing. (The 6th Sqn had the same design, only with a red stripe.)
|(11th Sqn)||Formed||(See below)|
|Current Base|| Matsushima (Blue Impulse aerobatic display team, T-4)
The unit today designated the 11th Sqn has its origins in the F-86F era. As early as October 19, 1958, a trio of 1st Air Wing aircraft appeared as an unofficial team for that day’s air display at Hamamatsu.
The forerunner of today’s Blue Impulse aerobatic team, five F-86Fs were established under the 2nd Sqn as the Kuchukido Kenkyuhan (Air Manoeuvering Research Group) from April 12, 1960. (Some Japanese sources state that this sub-unit was not transferred to the 2nd Sqn until July 1961.) Having made its with-smoke display debut at Iruma on May 21, 1960, the unit was renamed the Tokubetsu Hiko Kenkyuhan (Special Flight Research Group) on Aug. 1, 1960. Following the 2nd Sqn’s disbandment on November 20, 1965, this unit became the Sengi Kenkyuhan (Combat Research Group).
(Text to be expanded and moved to an upcoming separate page on training/transport unit histories.)
|101st Sqn||Formed||Aug. 1, 1958 (F-86D, 3rd Air Wing, Gifu)|
|Disbanded|| Oct. 1, 1968 (F-86D, 3rd Air Wing, Komaki)
The first JASDF all-weather fighter unit, the 101st Sqn moved to the 3rd Air Wing at Komaki on October 6, 1958, two months after its formation. (The 3rd Air Wing had itself been formed at Matsushima on December 1, 1957, and moved to Komaki on May 12, 1959.)
Having ended its conversion training role on August 22, 1967, the 101st was an interceptor squadron for less than year before disbanding.
101st Sqn Tail Marking
A yellow shachihoko (see 8th Sqn) on three red horizontal tail stripes above the serial number
|102nd Sqn||Formed||Mar. 1, 1959 (F-86D, 3rd Air Wing, Komaki)|
|Disbanded|| Dec. 1, 1967 (F-86D, 3rd Air Wing, Komaki)
The first front-line JASDF unit equipped with the F-86D, the 102nd Sqn also formed at Komaki, seven months after the type’s dedicated training unit, the 101st Sqn. The 102nd officially joined its sister squadron within the 3rd Air Wing at Komaki on May 12, 1959, and commenced readiness operations from August 28 that same year. The unit’s disbandment coincided with the changing of the 3rd Air Wing to an F-86F command.
102nd Sqn Tail Marking
A thin yellow stripe below, or above and below, a red shachihoko (see 8th Sqn) and the serial number
|103rd Sqn||Formed||Mar. 1, 1960 (F-86D, 3rd Air Wing, Komaki)|
|Disbanded|| Oct. 1, 1968 (F-86D, 2nd Air Wing, Chitose)
Formed under the 3rd Air Wing at Komaki, the 103rd was assigned to the air defence of northern Japan and thus moved to what was to be its sole operational home, Chitose AB, on June 10, 1961. Commenced from August 8 that year, the unit’s readiness operations came to an end after just two years, on December 1, 1963. Although the Chitose-based 203rd Sqn formed on the F-104J at Chitose on June 25, 1964, the 103rd Sqn did not disband until October 1, 1968, the same day as the 101st Sqn down in Komaki.
103rd Sqn Tail Marking
Two white-edged pale blue stripes above the serial number
|105th Sqn||Formed||Mar. 15, 1962 (F-86D, 3rd Air Wing, Komaki)|
|Disbanded|| Dec. 1, 1967 (F-86D, 3rd Air Wing, Komaki)
The 105th Sqn was the final F-86D unit to form under the 3rd Air Wing. (As the decision to introduce the F-104 had by then already been taken, there was no 104th Sqn.) Since the F-86D suffered from a low serviceability rate and pilots were being required to convert on to the F-104, the 105th’s career spanned less than six years and ended on the same day and at the same location as that of the 102nd.
105th Sqn Tail Marking
Thin blue stripe below a red shachihoko (see 8th Sqn) and the serial number
|201st Sqn||Formed|| (As Provisional F-104 Training Squadron)
Mar. 22, 1962 (Komaki)
(As 201st Sqn)
Mar. 8, 1963 (F-104J/DJ, 2nd Air Wing, Chitose)
Mar. 19, 1986 (F-15J/DJ, 2nd Air Wing, Chitose)
|Current Base|| Chitose (F-15J/DJ, 2nd Air Wing)
The Provisional F-104 Training Squadron came into being with seven U.S.-trained JASDF pilots exactly two weeks after the first flight of an F-104J in Japan, which took place at Komaki on March 8, 1962. It was not until September 17 that year that the unit received its first aircraft, a single F-104DJ and two ‘DJs.
A ceremony was held at Chitose on March 8, 1963, to mark the forming of the 201st Sqn. The training of student pilots, who were all in fact F-86D/F veterans, commenced three days later. Charged with operational testing and pilot training, there was for some time no scope for the process of working up as a fighter squadron.
As the “mother squadron” conversion unit for the type, the 201st was ultimately responsible for conducting aggressor (AGG) and air combat manoeuvering (ACM) training as well as fighter/interception duties. Its role changed to solely that of a fighter/interceptor squadron after December 1, 1964, when the 204th Sqn was formed at Nyutabaru and took over conversion training responsibilities.
Despite the experience of its pilots, for some reason the 201st had to wait until 1972 to win its first F-104J air gunnery competition.
The 201st’s disbandment as an F-104J unit, on October 1, 1974, coincided with the forming of the Phantom-equipped 302nd Sqn.
After more than 12 years as a “paper squadron”, the intensifying Cold War resulted in the 201st being reformed, once again at Chitose, as the fourth F-15J squadron on March 19, 1986.
Over the ensuing nearly 29 years, the 201st has shouldered—with its sister squadron, the 203rd Sqn—the responsibilities for securing Japan’s northern airspace. Having received its first modernized F-15Js in 2013, the 201st regularly participates in exercises in Japan and overseas.
201st Sqn Tail Markings
(F-104J/DJ) Although resembling a stylized “2” lightning flash in red, incorporating “01” (appeared reversed on starboard side), the design is actually a representation of the crane, a species of bird that is native to Hokkaido.
A close-up of the tail of one of the 201st Sqn aircraft that participated at the TAC Meet at Hyakuri in September 2013. In addition to the standard bear’s head marking, the tail art design features a
paw print and, in white, the two kanji characters (闘羆) for Fighting Brown Bears.
These were in red on the CO’s aircraft.
(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)
(F-15J/DJ) A realistic portrayal of the head of a brown bear, adopted in 1986.
|202nd Sqn||Formed|| (F-104J/DJ)
Mar. 31, 1964 (F-104J/DJ, 5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)
(As Provisional F-15J Squadron)
Dec. 17, 1981 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)
(As 202nd Sqn)
Dec. 21, 1982 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)
|Disbanded|| Oct. 3, 2000 (F-15J/DJ, 5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)
Unlike the frequently relocated F-86F units, those operating the F-104J tended to remain at one base. Save for the time spent temporarily based at Tsuiki (from August 20, 1980 to January 31, 1981), the 202nd was stationed at Nyutabaru for its entire existence as the first F-104J unit tasked with the fighter/interceptor role.
An F-104J Starfighter from the 202nd Sqn, which operated the type from March 1964 to December 1982. (Photo: JASDF)
Under its first commanding officer, one Lt. Col. Hikari Yoshida, the unit passed an operational inspection conducted by the Air Staff Office in September 1964. Morale was high when quick reaction alert (QRA) operations were commenced from October 1 that year.
Following the start of full-scale TAC Meet in 1979, the 202nd gained a reputation for the colour schemes applied to its aircraft specifically for the event.
Tradition was maintained by the 202nd forming the very first Eagle squadron, too. Formed on December 17, 1981, with one F-15Js and four F-15DJs, the Provisional F-15 Squadron became the conversion training New 202nd Sqn on December 21, 1982, by which time all the F-104Js had left. Coincidentally, the 202nd’s first F-15J CO, another lieutenant colonel, shared his predecessor’s family name, Yoshida.
The squadron added the QRA role on July 16, 1984, and had to be scrambled on the first operation of its type involving the F-15J only three days later. Having fulfilled the dual training/interceptor role for 16 years, the unit’s disbandment in 2000 resulted from the radical changes made to the JASDF pilot training syllabus following the retirement of the Fuji T-1 and Mitsubishi T-2 and the introduction of the F-2.
Two F-15Js fom the now defunct 202nd Tactical Fighter Squadron take off from Nyutabaru during the
joint U.S.-Japan Exercise Cope North 85-4, August 1985.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. James R. Ferguson via Wikimedia Commons)
202nd Sqn Tail Markings
(F-104J/DJ) In yellow with red shadowing, a stylized Roman numeral “V” (“5”) denoting the 5th Air Wing was applied to the engine intakes (up to June 1965) and subsequently (from mid-1968), in slightly re-designed form, on the vertical tail surfaces.
Parked with the access panel to the avionics bay aft of the cockpit in the open position, this 202nd Sqn F-104J was one of several SDF aircraft displayed at a Fukuoka airport event in September 1964. This example shows the unit insignia as it was then carried, on the engine intake. (Photo: Takao Kadokami)
(F-15J/DJ) In the form of an ancient warrior, a clay figurine known as a haniwa, of the kind excavated from the Saitobaru ancient burial mound complex located close to Nyutabaru AB.
|203rd Sqn||Formed||June 25, 1964 (F-104J/DJ, 3rd Air Wing, Komaki)|
|Current Base|| Chitose (F-15J/DJ and T-4, 2nd Air Wing)
The 203rd Sqn commenced QRA duties as a de facto air defence squadron from Chitose on December 1, 1964, roughly five months after its formation at Komaki as the second operational unit under the command of Lt. Col. Kimio Hisamatsu.
On May 1, 1982, a pair of 203rd Sqn F-104Js returns to Kwangju AB in South Korea during that year’s Cope North military exercise. ‘541’ was one of the 22 F-104Js that had been transferred to the
Taiwan Air Force by 1987.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Terry Smith via Wikimedia Commons)
Proving its mettle on a number of occasions by victories at JASDF TAC meets, the 203rd also attended joint training exercises overseas, its aircraft visiting such locations as Hawaii and Alaska during the course of the 1980s.
The decision having been made to re-equip with the F-15J, the number of F-104Js was gradually reduced following the receipt of the first two F-15Js on April 13, 1983; conversion as the second F-15J squadron was completed on March 24, 1984.
The 203rd recorded its first TAC Meet victory in 1985 and, with the 201st Sqn, participated in the joint U.S.-Japan Cope Thunder exercise in Alaska in 2003.
December 1, 2014, marked the 30th anniversary of the day the 203rd started conducting QRA operations with the F-15J in 1984. The unit is unique among the F-15J units in that its aircraft operate from shelters, and the majority of its related command facilities are located underground.
203rd Sqn Tail Marking
Like the 201st, its sister squadron at Chitose, the 203rd’s marking is based on a representative species of Hokkaido wildlife. A cartoon-like brown bear (in black and white) is flanked by stylized red flashes—“2” on the left and “3” on the right—and carries two red stars (denoting the 2nd Air Wing) on its “0”-shaped belly.
|204th Sqn||Formed||Dec. 1, 1964 (F-104J/DJ, 5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)|
|Current Base|| Naha (F-15J/DJ and T-4, 83rd Air Wing)
The third and final F-104J unit to form in 1964, the 204th started life as a conversion squadron under Lt. Col. Tadashi Mitsuzaki, who had previously commanded the 201st Sqn at Chitose. The unit relinquished its training role in favour of QRA fighter/interceptor duties in October 1968, by which time a total of 509 pilots had passed through the training course.
The 204th was temporarily based at Komatsu from August 20, 1980 to January 27, 1981, but otherwise remained at Nyutabaru throughout its F-104J period.
(Above and below) Sighted on the Nyutabaru flight line in November 1984 was this 204th Sqn F-104J sporting specially painted wingtip tanks to mark the unit’s 20th anniversary. At that time, the 204th was already winding down its F-104J operations and converting to the F-15J.
(Photos: Takao Kadokami)
Having received its first two F-15Js at Hyakuri on April 16, 1984, F-104J operations were gradually downsized. The majority of the pilots converted to the new type, 10 remaining with the re-equipping 204th. Officially marked on March 2, 1985, the switch from flying the F-104J from Nyutabaru to the F-15J from Hyakuri prompted the move of the 301st Sqn’s Phantoms to Nyutabaru, where they were maintained by retrained, former 204th Sqn ground crews.
In 2008, in response to the changing security situation in the seas around Japan, the decision was taken to bolster the capabilities of the Okinawa-based Southwestern Composite Air Division. Begun on January 8, 2009, the resulting transfer of the 204th’s operations from Hyakuri to Naha was completed on January 19. The Phantom-equipped 302nd Sqn vacated Naha and headed in the opposite direction to Hyakuri, and the 204th assumed responsibility for QRA operations from March 12, 2009.
Viewable via the niconico video sharing website, the Tsubasa TV channel carried a report on the ceremony that was held at Naha on December 13, 2014, to mark the 204th’s 50th anniversary. As is customary, the event featured an aircraft specially painted for the occasion (link).
204th Sqn Tail Markings
(F-104J/DJ) A variation of the same Air Wing’s 202nd Sqn marking, a Roman numeral “V” (“5”), denoting the 5th Air Wing, in this case blue with yellow shadowing
|205th Sqn||Formed||Mar. 31, 1965 (F-104J/DJ, 6th Air Wing, Komatsu)|
|Disbanded|| June 30, 1981 (F-104J/DJ, 6th Air Wing, Komatsu)
Charged with the air defence role on the Sea of Japan side of the country, the 205th Sqn had only seven aircraft equipped with cannon at the time of the unit’s formation. The probable reason was, at that time, the hit rate with the cannon was still low and the cause was being frantically investigated.
The 205th was temporarily based at Hyakuri from February 7, 1973 to October 20, 1973, but otherwise remained at Komatsu throughout its history.
Still bearing tail marking traces of its time assigned to the 207th Sqn, a 205th Sqn F-104J sits ready for an afternoon target-towing mission from Komatsu in August 1979. A highly radar-reflective, lightweight (200lb/90kg) plastic target for use at high speed by interceptor pilots, the Del Mar TDU-10 shown was reeled out on the A/A-37U-15 tow system’s 20,000-feet (6,100m) cable. The target’s honeycomb structure was filled with chalk powder, which produced an aircraft-like contrail for easy verification of a successful attack. Following the 1968 signing of a technical tie-up agreement with Del Mar Avionics Inc., NIPPI Corporation (now a Kawasaki subsidiary) started to manufacture these aerial targets under licence in Japan. The agreement also covered the Dart tactical fighter system.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)
The changeable weather over the Sea of Japan, particularly in the winter months, would often dictate that the 205th conduct its training from the generally more hospitable climes of Hyakuri or Nyutabaru. As it was, lightning strikes are thought to have been the likely cause of several aircraft and pilot losses over the sea. More often than not, 204th Sqn aircraft would be equipped with underwing fuel tanks in the winter to enable diversion to an alternative airfield.
Following the 205th’s disbandment in June 1981, its traditions were passed on to the Phantom-equipped 306th Sqn.
205th Sqn Tail Markings
From November 1967, a tail marking of a red stylized “6” (for 6th Air Wing) turned through 90 degrees and indicating the Starfighter’s speed.
A new tail marking, applied in April/May 1978, was retained until disbandment. Sometimes superimposed on a blue disc, the design comprised a red stylized “6” silhouetted in white, to represent the shape of Ishikawa Prefecture, where Komatsu is located, and the 石 (ishi) of Ishikawa. From that time, a smaller version of the former stylized “6” tail marking design was moved to the sides of the engine intakes.
|206th Sqn||Formed||Dec. 20, 1965 (F-104J/DJ, 7th Air Wing, Hyakuri)|
|Disbanded|| Dec. 1, 1978 (F-104J/DJ, 7th Air Wing, Hyakuri)
Dating back to its formation in the F-86F era at Matsushima in July 1961, the 7th Air Wing had moved to Iruma the following year. In 1965, the plan was to relocate the wing following the completion of Hyakuri, which was then being developed as the capital’s primary air defence base.
Seen at its Hyakuri home base in December 1973, this 206th Sqn F-104J is equipped with a 19-tube LAU-3/A 2.75-inch (70mm) rocket launcher under its port wing. Originally produced by Varo, Inc.
(now part of L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc.), the launcher has been manufactured under
licence in Japan as the J/LAU-3/A. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
Due to problems in acquiring additional land at Hyakuri, the construction of the 7th Wing’s facilities suffered a delay. This resulted in an unorthodox start to the 206th’s existence, as the squadron formed with the wing headquarters left behind at Iruma. Training had to be conducted from Chitose, Komatsu and Nyutabaru air bases, and it was to be August 1967, nearly two years later than planned, that the 206th could commence QRA duties in earnest.
The 206th’s disbandment coincided with the formation of the Phantom-equipped 306th Sqn. On November 30, 1978, a flypast by three F-104Js marked the final farewell; the 206th officially handed over its duties to the 306th the following day.
206th Sqn Tail Marking
A red and white plum blossom, denoting Kairaku Park in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture (close to Hyakuri), superimposed on a blue stylized “7”, denoting the 7th Air Wing.
|207th Sqn||Formed||Mar. 1, 1966 (F-104J/DJ, 7th Air Wing, Hyakuri)|
|Disbanded|| Mar. 19, 1986 (F-104J/DJ, 83rd Air Group, Naha)
The final F-104J unit, the 207th was formed when at only half strength, in terms of both aircraft and personnel. The cooperation of its base neighbour, the 206th Sqn, was indispensable in allowing 15 aircraft to be present for the inauguration ceremony.
More than a year and a half was to pass before the 207th had the standard complement of 18 aircraft at its disposal. Although a squadron would normally be expected to assume QRA duties about six months after forming, the 207th had to wait until August 1967 before accepting the role for which it was intended.
The initial deficit was more than made up following the U.S. return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty in 1972, as the 207th’s ranks were swelled to 25 assigned aircraft. Its QRA duties from Hyakuri were brought to an end in September 1972, and the move to 83rd Air Group at Naha was completed on November 10.
(Above) Komatsu hosted the June 1982 inter-squadron TAC Meet, among the competitors of which was this pair of camouflaged F-104Js from Naha-based 207th Sqn. Both sported an overall two-tone grey camouflage scheme, the aircraft nearest the camera featuring a black nose radome.
(Below) Then in 207th Sqn service, the first JASDF F-104DJ proceeds along the taxiway at Hyakuri in October 1984. This aircraft had arrived at Komaki aboard a Flying Tiger Line Canadair CL-44 on February 8, 1962. Note that the F-104DJs lacked the black coating on the Mach cone and engine intake lips of the F-104Js. Applied instead was an electro-thermal anti-icing coating called Spraymat, developed by the British company D. Napier and Son. This took the form of a pattern of flame-sprayed metal heating elements embedded between two layers of resin applied in liquid form by spraying.
(Photos: Akira Watanabe)
The 207th was still at Naha when it became the last F-104J unit to disband, in March 1986.
207th Sqn Tail Markings
(1966-72, Hyakuri) A red and white plum blossom, denoting Kairaku Park in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture (close to Hyakuri), superimposed on a red stylized “7”, denoting the 7th Air Wing.
(1972-1986, Naha) A red and white flash forming a stylized “2”, incorporating a red-outlined white “7”. Within an elliptically shaped blue disc that represents “0” were four white diamond-shaped stars in a diamond formation, representing the Southern Cross. In Japan, this constellation is only visible from Okinawa.
The engine intakes of the F-104J preserved at Kumagaya AB, Saitama Prefecture, bear this emblem, which first appeared on the two 207th Sqn aircraft that participated at the 1984 TAC Meet. The emblem contains rough representations of the tail markings of all seven front-line units that operated the type.
The central 207th Sqn marking is surrounded by (clockwise from top right) those of the
204th, 205th, 206th, 201st, 202nd and 203rd squadrons.
|301st Sqn||Formed|| (As Provisional F-4EJ Squadron)
Aug. 1, 1972 (Hyakuri)
(As 301st Sqn)
Oct. 16, 1973 (F-4EJ, 7th Air Wing, Hyakuri)
|Current Base|| Hyakuri (F-4EJKai and T-4, 7th Air Wing)
When the Provisional F-4EJ Squadron formed in August 1972, the unit had only two aircraft on strength. The first operational conversion course for future F-4EJ pilots commenced on February 25, 1973, eight months before the full-fledged formation of this the first squadron to operate the type. The 301st retains the role of operational conversion unit.
The 301st’s move from Hyakuri to Nyutabaru (official ceremony seen above) took place on March 2, 1985, the day that the Starfighter-equipped 205th Sqn went in the reverse direction to re-equip on the F-15J/DJ.
The unit started to receive examples of the upgraded F-4EJKai in April 1991. This move was preceded by changes made to the conversion course, which was eventually to cover the upgraded version alone.
Two fine studies of the 301st TFS F-4EJKai that was painted in a special 40th anninversary colour scheme in October 2013. The wording along the upper fuselage reads Phantom Mother Squadron,
with Est. on the 16th of October in 1973 on the gold bar beneath the 301.
(Photo above: JASDF; below: Miya.m via Wikimedia Commons)
Since the disbandment of the F-15J Eagle-equipped 202nd Sqn in October 2000, the 301st has also single-handedly shouldered the 5th Air Wing’s QRA responsibilities. The October 13, 2013, edition of the local newspaper, the Miyazaki Nichinichi Shimbun, reported that around 290 people had attended the previous day’s ceremony at Nyutabaru held to mark the 301st Sqn’s 40th anniversary.
A preliminary ceremony was held at Nyutabaru on October 2, 2016, to mark the imminent end of the
301st Sqn’s long residency. (Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)
After an absence of 31 years, the 301st Sqn returned to its Hyakuri birthplace as part of s reorganization on October 31, 2016.
301st Sqn Tail Markings
Applied from 1974, the 301st’s tail marking is derived from a species of frog found on Mt. Tsukuba, close to Hyakuri AB. The frog motif is a play on words, as kaeru (frog) can also mean “to return home,” implying to return to base safe and sound.
When based at Hyakuri, the yellow scarf around the frog’s neck was adorned with seven black stars, denoting the 7th Air Wing. Thus, two stars were deleted following the move to Nyutabaru and reinstated when the unit returned to Hyakuri in October 2016.
(As Provisional F-4EJ Squadron)
(As 302nd Sqn)
|Current Base|| Hyakuri (F-4EJKai and T-4, 7th Air Wing)
The first operational rather than training F-4EJ unit, the 302nd’s base assignment in Hokkaido meant that it was to be involved in an infamous incident less than two years after its commencement of full-fledged operations.
On September 6, 1976, defecting Soviet Air Force pilot Viktor Belenko managed to avoid detection and land his MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor at Hakodate airport, overrunning the runway in the process. The failure in air defence and the 302nd Sqn’s actual lack of involvement after having been scrambled prompted a major rethink of the overall system. This ultimately led to the acquisition of the F-15J Eagle, with its superior look-down radar capabilities, and airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft.
The 302nd Sqn moved from Chitose to Naha to join the 83rd Air Group on November 26, 1985, prompted by the reformation of the 201st Sqn on the F-15J at Chitose and the disbandment of the Starfighter-equipped 207th Sqn at Naha.
In 1987, there occurred what was later referred to in the Japanese press as the December 9 Incident. Incursions into Japanese airspace by a Soviet Air Force Tupolev Tu-16 Badger crew prompted a 302nd Sqn F-4EJ pilot to become the first to fire warning shots, on two occasions on the same intercept mission.
A lone 302nd TFS Phantom cruises above the clouds on a flight from the unit’s former base of Naha AB, Okinawa Prefecture. The JASDF consolidated the major part of its Phantom operations at
Hyakuri AB, Ibaraki Prefecture, in early 2009. (Photo: JASDF)
The 302nd progressively re-equipped with the F-4EJKai during the course of 1993. Following a temporary ban imposed on F-15J operations in November 2007, several of the unit’s aircraft were deployed to Hyakuri. As it turned out, late the following year saw the 302nd’s 23-year association with Okinawa brought to an end. Plans were made for a permanent move to Hyakuri, involving a base swap with the F-15J Eagle-equipped 204th Sqn. Completed on March 13, 2009, the 302nd’s phased move to the 7th Air Wing was formalized two weeks later, on March 26.
A plaque in front of the preserved 302nd Sqn F-4EJ left behind at Naha includes details of the unit’s cumulative number of scrambles, which reached the 1,000 mark on April 29, 1988, 1,500 on April 13, 1995, and 2,000 on June 8, 2007. During its time at Naha, the unit won the TAC Meet a total of eight times.
On March 7, 2015, a ceremony was held at Hyakuri to mark the 302nd Sqn’s 40th anniversary. The event was attended by a total of 115 former unit personnel, including the first commanding officer Akio Suzuki, whose military career started with his graduation, aged 23, from the National Defense Academy’s Department of Electrical Engineering in 1957.
Part of the day’s events involved the taking of a group photo of unit personnel past and present in front of the specially marked Phantom, which had first flown in its new scheme on February 13. Gracing the covers of the May issues of both JWings and Koku Fan, the aircraft is painted black overall with colourful elements of the eagle design superimposed on the fuselage and wings; yellow legs and talons were added to the underwing tanks. (A short video of the aircraft on takeoff can be found here [link]). Note that the aircraft had CHITOSE-NAHA-HYAKURI above the red eagle design on the port side of the fuselage, but the ICAO airfield codes RJCJ-ROAH-RJAH on the starboard side.
No official announcement has been made about the future plans for the 302nd Sqn, but the hope is that the eagle emblem will be passed on and one day adorn JASDF F-35 Lightning IIs.
302nd Sqn Tail Markings
Following the 301st’s example, the 302nd originally chose a species of wildlife that inhabits mountains near to its then home base as its tentative marking. In this case, it was the ojirowashi (white-tailed sea eagle), the range of which extends across Hokkaido.
The original black and white design was only briefly applied to a handful of aircraft before the official, more colourful variation was decided on in September 1975. The design comprises “3” blue, swept-back wings, a white triangular tail for the “0” and “2” yellow talons. The marking’s creator, Tadao Yamamoto, was present at the unit’s 40th anniversary event in March 2015.
The 302nd is the sole JASDF fighter squadron that has not had to conform with the current stipulation that unit markings be toned down and smaller than the hinomaru national marking.
|303rd Sqn||Formed||Oct. 26, 1976 (F-4EJ, 6th Air Wing, Komatsu)|
|Current Base|| Komatsu (F-15J/DJ and T-4, 6th Air Wing)
The 303rd was intended to replace the F-86F Sabre-equipped 4th Sqn, which had disbanded at Komatsu on June 30, 1975. As a result of protracted discussions with the local authorities and residents about the deployment of Phantoms, it was to be a year and four months before the 303rd would form.
Commenced on June 17, 1977, QRA operations formed an essential part of the unit’s operations at a time when so-called Tokyo Express flights—morning incursions across the Sea of Japan made by Soviet Air Force Tupolev Tu-95 Bear and Myasischev M-4 Bison bombers—were at their peak.
The unit made its debut, alongside representatives from three other Phantom squadrons, at the 1978 TAC Meet and won the competition for the first time in 1981.
The 303rd officially became the first former Phantom unit to complete conversion to the F-15J on December 1, 1987, having ceased operations on the outgoing type the previous day.
A 303rd Sqn ground crew perfoms maintenance on the ramp at Eielson AFB during Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 11-2, which was held in July 2011.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Miguel Lara via Wikimedia Commons)
It was to be 2000 before the unit, a multiple TAC Meet winner, made its debut at the Cope North Guam exercise. Although the 303rd received examples of modernized F-15Js in 2007, the unit is said to be currently equipped solely with standard examples.
303rd Sqn Tail Markings
(Early F-4EJ) Initially (from 1978), the 303rd carried on the 205th Sqn’s tradition of wearing the 6th Air Wing’s red, white and blue marking, as shown in the black and white photo above.
(Later F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ) Adopted in June 1981 to reflect the 303rd’s “Dragon” radio call-sign, the current design (above) depicts the dragon god said to be the guardian of sacred Mt. Hakusan, close to Komatsu AB. The disc containing the design is in the form of a stylized “6” to again denote the air wing to which the squadron is assigned.
|304th Sqn||Formed||Aug. 1, 1977 (F-4EJ, 8th Air Wing, Tsuiki)|
|Current Base|| Naha (F-15J/DJ and T-4, 9th Air Wing)
At the time of its formation, the 304th Sqn called on the services of experienced former F-86F Sabre pilots from the 10th Sqn, which had disbanded at Tsuiki the previous April. Allowing time for the pilots to adjust to two-man crew operations, the 304th Sqn was able to commence QRA duties on April 10, 1978.
Despite having formed a matter of a mere nine months beforehand, the 304th’s veteran pilots were instrumental in the unit beating off the challenge from the other three Phantom units to emerge victorious at the first-ever TAC Meet in 1978.
Its canopies open in the time-honoured fashion, a 304th Sqn F-4EJ moves along the taxiway at Tsuiki in August 1983. This aircraft retains the light- and dark-blue colour scheme applied for the previous year’s TAC Meet at Komatsu. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
After that initial success, operational reasons connected to Tsuiki’s location and the need to maintain a high degree of QRA readiness forced the squadron to miss the TAC Meet for a number of years. After a nine-year hiatus, the 304th won again, with a record-high point score, at its next participation in 1987.
The unit received its first F-15Js in April 1989 and was in the position to be officially declared fully converted on to the type on January 11, 1990.
The onus of serving as the Western Air Defense Force’s sole interceptor unit fell on the 304th following the disbandment of the Eagle-equipped 202nd Sqn at Nyutabaru in October 2000.
The 304th relocated to Naha, Okinawa, to form part of the newly formed 9th Air Wing in January 2016, bringing to an end its 38-year partnership with the 6th Sqn at Tsuiki and with the 5th Air Wing’s 301st Sqn at Nyutabaru.
304th Sqn Tail Marking
(F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ) Continuing the links between F-4EJ unit markings and real or imaginary inhabitants of nearby mountains, the 304th chose a mask of Tengu, a long-nosed goblin said to inhabit Mt. Ehiko. Famed for its swordsmanship and believed to possess phantom-like supernatural powers, the Tengu is said to have been the idea of the 8th Air Wing commander at the time of the unit’s formation.
|305th Sqn||Formed||Dec. 1, 1978 (F-4EJ, 7th Air Wing, Hyakuri)|
|Current Base|| Nyutabaru (F-15J/DJ and T-4, 5th Air Wing)
The second F-4EJ unit to form at Hyakuri, the 305th’s first intake of pilots was drawn from those who had previously flown the F-104J with the 206th Sqn, which had officially disbanded at the same base the previous day. Flight training and duties were conducted in partnership with its conversion unit sister squadron there, the 301st.
Although the 305th was able to make its TAC Meet debut in 1979, this was the time when the 301st, the Phantom “Mother Squadron,” reigned supreme at the event. It was not until 1986, the year after the 301st had moved to Nyutabaru, that the 305th was able to record the first of a string of TAC Meet successes.
After 14 years’ service on the F-4EJ, the 305th began to receive its first F-15Js early in 1993 and was declared fully operational on the type on August 2 that year.
This schedule had given the unit plenty of time to recover from any disruption caused by the type conversion, as evidenced by the 305th taking home the victor’s spoils at the following year’s TAC Meet. Detachments from the 305th, too, have gained experience at the joint U.S.-Japan Cope North Guam military exercise, the first occasion having been in 1999.
In 2009, the 305th’s Hyakuri partnership with sister squadron the 204th had to be brought to an end after 16 years. In response to the changing security situation in the seas around Japan, the decision was taken to bolster the capabilities of the Okinawa-based Southwestern Composite Air Division. Begun on January 8, 2009, the resulting transfer of the 204th’s operations from Hyakuri to Naha was completed on January 19. The Phantom-equipped 302nd Sqn vacated Naha and headed in the opposite direction to join the 304th at Hyakuri.
The 305th Sqn itself completed its relocation from under the command of the 7th Air Wing at Hyakuri to under the 5th Air Wing at Nyutabaru on August 31, 2016.
The 305th marked the completion of its move from Hyakuri to Nyutabaru on August 31, 2016.
Two months later, on October 31, the Phantom-equipped 301st Sqn headed in the opposite direction.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)
305th Sqn Tail Marking
(F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ) The plum flower emblem of the 305th continues the tradition started by the F-104J-equipped 206th Sqn (see entry above).
|306th Sqn||Formed||June 30, 1981 (F-4EJ, 6th Air Wing, Komatsu)|
|Current Base|| Komatsu (F-15J/DJ and T-4, 6th Air Wing)
On June 30, 1981, the sixth and final original Phantom unit was essentially formed from the 205th Sqn, which had been disbanded on the same day. The 306th assumed responsibility for the interception of Soviet Air Force aircraft that were regularly entering Japanese airspace on April 6, 1982.
The level of airmanship possessed by the unit was soon ably demonstrated when the unit won its first annual TAC Meet competition at the first attempt later in 1982 and repeated the initial success on the next two occasions.
A lineup of six 306th Sqn F-4EJs on Komatsu air show day in July 1986. Not coincidentally, aircraft ‘306’ nearest the camera was painted to commemorate the base’s 25th anniversary. Using the whole aircraft for a representation of the unit’s golden eagle motif, in the TAC Meet tradition, marked a tasteful, well-executed departure from the many gaudy, primary colour schemes that
had previously appeared. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
Eight years after its formation, the 306th Sqn became the first to receive the F-4EJKai in November 1989 and had completed conversion by March the following year. The unit was thus heavily involved in the operational testing of the upgraded version’s ASM-1 missile.
The 306th began to receive its complement of F-15Js in August 1996. When the conversion process was declared complete, on March 17, 1997, the F-4EJKai aircraft and their experienced flight and maintenance crews were transferred to the re-formed 8th Sqn (q.v.) at Misawa.
A two-seat F-15DJ and an F-15J from the 306th Sqn formate with a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker aircraft during air-to-air refuelling training in July 2009. The 306th was the only squadron to
convert from the upgraded F-4EJKai version of the Phantom to the F-15J.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Angelique Perez via Wikimedia Commons)
Having only guested at the 1997 event, the 306th made its official F-15J debut at the 1998 TAC Meet, where the unit emerged victorious, despite coming up against the Aggressor Squadron’s F-15DJs for the first time.
306th Sqn Tail Marking
(F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ) Inhabiting the mountains close to Komatsu, the inuwashi (golden eagle) adopted by the 306th Sqn for its squadron marking in 1981 also happens to be prefectural bird of Ishikawa.
The shape of the eagle’s eye harks back to the stylized “6” tail marking carried on the F-104Js of the 306th’s predecessor at Komatsu, the 205th Sqn.
|501st Sqn||Formed|| Dec. 1, 1961 (RF-86F, Matsushima)
(Hyakuri Detachment, RF-4E)
Oct. 1, 1974
|Current Base|| Hyakuri (as 501st Tactical Reconnaissance Sqn,
Tactical Reconnaissance Group, RF-4EKai/EJKai and T-4)
Having formed within the Air Reconnaissance Group with 10 RF-86Fs, the 18th and last RF-86F was delivered to the 501st on March 27, 1962.
At the time of its move from Matsushima to Iruma on August 31, 1962, the unit also had two T-33As and a T-28B. (A short history of the T-28B, which is now on display at the JASDF Air Park, appears on the JASDF Where Are They Now? page of this website.)
A ground crew member waits patiently at the wingtip, while a colleague talks to the pilot of a 501st Sqn RF-86F. As the RF-86F’s armament was removed to accommodate the cameras for its reconnaissance role, fake gun ports were painted on the nose. Of note in the right background of this shot, taken at Iruma in May 1975, is an RF-86F with its fuselage number and hinomaru national insignia removed. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)
Following the introduction of the RF-4E, on October 1, 1974, a detachment was relocated to Hyakuri, to which the Tactical Reconnaissance Group was moved a year to the day later to assume official command of a fully equipped 501st.
One of the original 14 RF-4E Phantoms received by the 501st Sqn and subsequently upgraded to
RF-4EKai standard, seen at Hyakuri in October 2000. The 501st currently flies a mix of
RF-4EKai and RF-4EJKai aircraft as well as Kawasaki T-4s.
A detachment of RF-86Fs was operated from Iruma until March 25, 1977, after which some aircraft were passed to the Koku Sotai Shireibu Hikotai (HQ Squadron).
The unit’s 14 original RF-4Es were joined by the first of an eventual seven RF-4EJ and eight RF-4EJKai, all converted from standard F-4EJs, in 1992.
501st Sqn Tail Markings
(RF-86F) Blue and yellow chevron
(RF-4E/EJ) On Feb. 25, 1981, the chevron design, carried over from the RF-86F era, was replaced by the head of the U.S. cartoon character, Woody Woodpecker. This was derived from the squadron’s emblem since 1961 (shown below), which depicts a bowtie-wearing Woody wielding a telescope and a map (below).
501st Sqn Special Markings (2004)
Taken from a photograph kindly supplied by Andy Binks, this close-up of a 501st Sqn RF-4EJKai shows the kanji character 信, pronounced shin, painted in white on its intake splitter plate. Carrying the general meanings of trust, faith and sincerity, this kanji character marking is one of several that can be seen on aircraft that participate in the JASDF inter-squadron TAC Meet and on other occasions.
Japanese sources state that these are derived, with some subtle differences, from the (familiar to some Japanese) Nanso Satomi Hakkenden (translated in Encylcopaedia Britannica as Satomi and the Eight Dogs), written over the period from 1813 to 1842 by one Kyokutei Bakin (real name Takizawa Bakin, 1767–1848). One of the world’s longest stories, the saga tells of attempts to restore the fortunes of a samurai household and revolves around eight unborn puppies, eight mystic beads (each one bearing the kanji carrying the meaning of a Confucian ideal) and eight sons who grow up to become the embodiments of those ideals.
Other 501st Sqn Phantoms were each similarly adorned with a kanji character, including (with general meanings):
Also present at Hyakuri in 2004 was an RF-4EKai specially painted in a predominantly metallic blue colour scheme to commemorate the JASDF’s 50th anniversary. This aircraft’s intake splitter plates bore an elaborate version of the kanji 忍 (the nin of ninja, meaning spy or to enter surreptitiously) with a superimposed sword. This [link] provides two images of the aircraft in flight at the 2004 Yokota Friendship Day, including one that reveals the underside artwork. This featured a version of the cartoon character known as The Spook, originally designed by a McDonnell-Douglas technical artist, and the motto 見敵必撮 (miteki hissatsu, “enemy sighted, photograph guaranteed”). These elements were painted in silver along the modified F-104J fuel tank then serving as a centreline general-purpose pod.
A fine study of a Kawasaki T-4 from the 13th Flight Training Wing at Ashiya, Fukuoka Prefecture. Specially painted to mark the type’s 15-year association with the unit for the Ashiya air show in
November 2015, the year on the fuselage inscription was changed from 2015 to 2016 for the
aircraft’s appearances at two displays in December. (Photo source: JASDF Ashiya AB)
Please note that a page devoted to JASDF training and support squadron
histories is in preparation.
(All photographs on this website are copyright J-HangarSpace
unless otherwise stated.)
F-4 Phantom II Export Version, Famous Airplanes of the World No. 82, Bunrindo, 2000
JASDF F-15 All-Unit Guide, JWings, October 2014 issue
Koku Jieitai F-4, Military Aircraft of JASDF, Ikaros, 2009
Koku Jieitai F-4 Phantom II, Model Art Profile (supplement to April 2008 issue)
Koku Jieitai F-86/F-104, Military Aircraft of JASDF, Ikaros, 2005
Lockheed F-104J/DJ Starfighter “Eiko”, Famous Airplanes of the World No. 104, Bunrindo, 2004
North American F-86 Sabre, Famous Airplanes of the World Nos. 20 and 93, Bunrindo, 1995/2002
Watanabe, Akira, Japanese Air Arms, 1952–1984, (self-published in English), 1984